There are few things more exciting than going backstage at a West End theatre.
Here is the notice-board on which is pinned today's cast list. Here is the star's dressing
room, complete with built-in shower and open cupboard full of costumes. Presumably they are all in the right order? Not at all like my wardrobe, then. Now we are on the stage itself, inspecting the rotating stages, looking out into the auditorium, marvelling
at the sheer grandeur of it all, from sparkling chandelier to velvety seats. In the wings, three bodies, clad in uniform, dangle from on high. The next time I see them they will be strewn on the stage in front of the Barricade, silent victims of the fierce
struggle for Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Don't worry: no one was harmed in the writing of this blog. I'm as sure as sure can be that they are dummies. Though life-like ones...
I am with the Youngest
of the Darling Daughters, her friend Wendy and Wendy's daughter, the beautiful Zoe. Our guide, none other than the fella who, in just over an hour's time, will be on that self-same stage, starring as Jean Valjean in Les Mis, "the longest running musical in
the world" as the billboards outside the theatre trumpet. It is possible that Adam (for yes, it is he) doesn't know me from, well, Adam. He may think I am Some Old Biddy who has tagged along for the ride. If so, he is far too polite to say so.
My journey has not been completely uneventful. The train I planned to catch was cancelled - once again, unbelievably, due to a broken down train. Regular readers will remember that a similar problem saw me stranded on Victoria
Station on my last visit to London. Is it possible, I wonder, that it might be the same train? Is somebody trying to tell me that I am too much of a gadabout?
On my eventual arrival at Piccadilly Circus,
I hovered around wondering if I had taken the right exit from the Underground station. The Youngest of the Darling Daughters kept calling my mobile to say she would meet me outside somewhere called "Wrigglies". Well, I looked and I looked but couldn't find
anything Worm-Related. It turned out she meant Ripley's which most of you will doubtless have heard of but I hadn't. In time honoured fashion we found ourselves walking towards each other, mobile phones clamped to our ears, eyes scanning the crowds around
the Circus. "I see you now!" we both called out in unison.
I was too late to enjoy a latte in the fascinating surroundings of the Theatre Cafe where the other two members of our party were waiting for us.
We only just had time to nip across the road to the theatre where Adam was waiting to sign us in and make sure we had visitors' badges strung around our necks.
We meet the lovely lass who will be doing his
make-up, transforming him first into Prisoner 24601. Over the course of three hours on stage, he will age several years, with the assistance, he tells us, of three different wigs.
You might think that seeing
all that goes on behind the scenes might temper the experience of watching the actual production - but Les Mis works its magic as ever, transporting us to the prison camp at Toulon, the factory at Montreuil sur Mer, the Barricades in the streets of Paris.
Our genial tour guide is Adam Bayou no longer; he is the tortured but powerful Jean Valjean, trying to keep one step ahead of his long-time enemy, Javert, while remembering his promise to poor, doomed Fantine that he would raise her daughter as his own.
The Youngest of the Darling Daughters tells me she remembers the first time she heard Adam sing "Bring Him Home" - at an after show party for the Limelighters, the youth theatre group of which my grandkids Jack
and Hazel are founder members and - excuse proud grandmotherly boast - Leading Lights. Adam is their singing teacher; maybe in the future one or both of them may stand on a West End stage and sing their hearts out.
Adam Bayou is up for an award as Best Male Understudy of the year - you can vote at www.broadwayworld.com. He hasn't asked me to mention this but I reckon that nobody could deserve it more.
lots of selfies to remind ourselves of our Great Day Out. When we check them back on Zoe's phone we discover that Adam has "photo-bombed" the photo we took of ourselves outside the Stage Door. Fancy being photo-bombed by Jean Valjean!
I think I'm star-struck.